The Look of the Medium

Television production and promotion in the 1950s and 1960s reflected the influence not just of high modernism but also contemporary avant-garde art and design. This inspiration was evident in a range of television practices, from set design and stagecraft to marketing and promotional campaigns.

This interchange between popular culture and contemporary vanguard art was not new to this period. As the art historian Thomas Crow observed, the avant-garde was a stimulus for popular culture from the mid-nineteenth century on, serving as “a kind of research and development arm of the culture industry.”

From early in the twentieth century, modernism’s impact was pervasive in sports, fashion, advertising, and entertainment. By the mid-1960s, television producers and designers looked to cutting-edge art movements, including Minimalism, Color Field painting, Pop, Op, and Psychedelic art, to refresh the look of American television.


(Above) installation view, Revolution of the Eye, The Jewish Museum, New York, May 2015. Photo by David Heald, courtesy of the Jewish Museum